Thank you, Forbes, for naming Chicago the sixth most miserable city in the nation. In doing so, I imagine you’re keeping some sort of riffraff away and further endearing the city to those of us who live here and love it. That’s right, love it. I’ve lived in Houston, Oberlin, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas and Chicago, and Chicago ranks galaxies above all of them. It’s the only city I can honestly say I love.
But as I click my heels and dance my jig, don’t let me get in the way of your wallowing. According to Forbes, the reason of the misery is this: “The Windy City is a cultural and financial center, but its residents must endure gridlock traffic, high property taxes and brutal winters. Commute times to work average 31 minutes, eighth worst in the U.S.,” Forbes says.
That said, I don’t own a home (which means I don’t pay property taxes or shovel my own walk). I work from home so I don’t have a daily commute, and aside from walking the dog I really don’t have to leave my house much in winter.
Clearly, this Forbes report also misses a lot of key points. For one, we’ve got a pretty impressive public transportation system, alleviating the need to have a daily car commute. Don’t like the train or the bus? We have a dedicated contingent of intrepid cyclists and pedestrians who power their own commute every single day. They’re smart to do so, considering the calorie burn needed after consuming boundless amounts of to-die-for food sold everywhere, from neighborhood dives to places like Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s, Les Nomades and the list goes on. These days, when I travel abroad, I look forward to coming home to the food scene that defies any I’ve ever buffeted upon.
And then there’s the entertainment. Some days, a ride on the El suffices for $2.25 worth of slack-jawed amusement. Other times the entertainment is even cheaper–many of the museums around town are free, as are the parks and the ever available walk down Michigan Avenue or along Lake Michigan. Or head over to Julius Meinl or Intelligentsia for a thick coffee and a chat. This is the Midwest, after all, and people are generally friendly and open. They’re also, I’ve learned, smart, kind, adventurous and fun-loving, whether they’re drinking beer in the dead of winter dressed as a polar bear, searching for the city’s best pizza, taking in an architecture walking tour, learning to make dumplings at a Chinese Cultural Center class or just out running errands.
And the winter? Sure, it’s usually pretty monstrous, or at least it can be. Last year’s blizzard, however thick, brought out the best in neighbors and strangers, who exited the warmth of their apartments with the curiosity of a baby, bright-eyed and amazed by a world buried in white like they’ve never seen. Of course, that was 2011. In 2012, you’re more likely to hear conversations like I did while shopping last weekend. “Do you even think it’ll snow again this year?” “I hope so.” That, it should be noted, was in early February, at a time when we’re all usually cabin-fever-filled and ready to flee to Jamaica.
But don’t take just take my word for any of it. To illustrate, I put together a slideshow of some of the reasons I love Chicago.